It’s hard to remember now just how many people lost their minds, and how unhinged the discourse was. Our most prominent commentators were using the word “treason” like punctuation, encouraging Americans to give free reign to their worst impulses. “Let’s have rage,” encouraged Time magazine’s Lance Morrow. “Let America explore the rich reciprocal possibilities of the fatwa.”
Five days after 9/11 Andrew Sullivan wrote in the Sunday Times of London, “The middle part of the country -- the great red zone that voted for Bush -- is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -- and may well mount a fifth column.”
No less a “serious” journalist than the New York Times’ Tom Friedman opined on Charlie Rose’s television show that America went to war in Iraq “because we could:”
What they [Muslims] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying "Which part of this sentence don't you understand? You don't think we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we're just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this!"
Those who spoke up were presumed to be part of Sullivan’s stereotypical aging hippie cohort; I was 29, and saw people my age and younger put their bodies in the road before police lines in order to try to stop the wars. Online, a new group of writers was starting to emerge to challenge the prevailing narrative -- a narrative which included a major cable network airing G. Gordon Liddy’s thoughts about the president’s dick:
And here comes George Bush. You know, he's in his flight suit, he's striding across the deck, and he's wearing his parachute harness, you know -- and I've worn those because I parachute -- and it makes the best of his manly characteristic. You go run those -- run that stuff again of him walking across there with the parachute. He has just won every woman's vote in the United States of America. You know, all those women who say size doesn't count -- they're all liars. Check that out.
This was the atmosphere into which First Draft was born: An atmosphere in which official opinion of the president ranged from awesome to super-awesome. We were taking our shoes off in the airport, we were detaining people without trial, and anybody who pointed it out and objected was quickly derided as just some crazy person on the Internet, probably writing from his mother’s basement, in pajamas.
Ten years, 8.5 million page views and a president later, First Draft is home to a team of talented writers who get up every day and take a look at what’s broken in the world and try to fix it. It’s the virtual living room for hundreds of readers: politically savvy, mouthy, generous, profane and interesting people who want to know not just what’s wrong with the world but what to do about it.
I don’t quite know how that happened, exactly. I just wanted to talk about the things that mattered to me, the things nobody else was talking about: liberal politics, American newspapers, attempts by our culture to address the smoking hole in the New York skyline, and the under-the-radar assault on American civil liberties and the rule of law.
Our readers showed me that criticism wasn’t just complaining; that it set an agenda, made an argument, created an imperative to act. At first it was me asking them to call their senators, write a letter, sign a petition. Soon it was them asking me, after reading some peroration of mine against some injustice, “Well? What are we going to do about it?”
This book collects some of our best stories from the past 10 years: Bush's re-election and subsequent implosion, Scout's reporting from NOLA after Hurricane Katrina, Holden's story about Terri Schiavo and his sister, my final Galactica thread, the Freepi obsession the morning after Obama's election, a malaka or two, and Jude's gumbo recipe.
The book itself is almost done. It's 230 pages, sans introduction, and we are only offering one reward for this Kickstarter, which is a copy of it. The funds will cover the final editing, printing and shipping, as well as our usual First Draft overhead for which we generally run a fundraiser around this time.
Use it as a keepsake to remember the crazy by. Use it to remember what we've survived, and how important early political blogging was in keeping our sanity. Use it to teach people who can't remember how nuts that time was what it felt like on the inside, day to day.
Risks and challenges
The challenges of this project involve finishing the final chapters and assembling the book itself; I've done numerous projects like this, however, and believe we're close enough to done to put this project out there.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)